Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment of Herpes esophagitis

Herpes Esophagitis

is a condition in which the esophagus (muscular tube connecting the mouth to the stomach) is under the attack of the virus, namely, the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). It is characterized by the inflammation and appearance of ulcers in the esophagus.

It is very unlikely that a healthy individual with a normally functioning immunity system would get the disease. It is seen in individuals who have a weakened immunity from other diseases and infections. Cancer patients are susceptible to such infections post chemotherapy.

Herpes Esophagitis

Symptoms of Herpes Esophagitis

  • Food is swallowed with great difficulty.
  • High body temperature.
  • Chills.
  • Hiccups.
  • Food may get stuck in the esophagus as in food impaction.
  • Pain in the body and joints.
  • Weight loss.
  • Herpes infection in the mouth or other parts of the body.
  • Ulcers in the esophagus can perforate the mucous lining in extreme cases.
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding.
  • Formation of an abnormal passage way between the esophagus and the trachea (wind pipe leading to the lungs) as in Tracheoesophageal fistula.
  • Reinfection is also common.

Who are at a higher risk of being infected by the HSV virus?

  • Immune compromised patients suffering from HIV/AIDs.
  • Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
  • Patients who have undergone organ transplants.
  • Patients who have a suppressed immunity post a long bout of sickness or infection.

Diagnostic Tests

  • Endoscopy

    : Endoscopy is a procedure which involves inspecting the esophagus with the help of a nasogastric tube is the most effective and prevalent test to detect the condition. Upon inserting the endoscope, the disease is detected by patches of ulcers on the mucous lining of the esophagus. The ulcers may fuse together and give a black appearance to the esophageal wall.

  • Biopsy

    : Accurate inference can be drawn regarding the infection only when a specimen of the infected mass is drawn out with the endoscope and a biopsy is performed on it.

Treatment of Herpes Esophagitis

  • Esophagitis does not require any treatment in healthy individuals. The infection subsides on its own within 3-5 days.
  • In immune compromised individuals, the healing process is much longer.
  • Anti viral medication like acyclovir, famciclovir or valacyclovir can control the infection.
  • Pain medication is also prescribed for better management of the symptoms.
  • Long term preventive measures and medication is generally prescribed to individuals with suppressed immunity to prevent the chances of reinfection.

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